International Children's Travel

Tips for taking your child out of the country

You've finally decided to take that trip to a foreign country with your child; it may be England, Spain, China or somewhere in South America. The hotels are booked, the plane tickets purchased and your bags are packed. You have a list of sites you are both excited to see, and now all you need to do is hop on the plane and go. Could it really be that easy? Probably not.

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Traveling to a foreign country is a completely different experience from traveling within the United States. Even a cross-country car ride can't compare to a 16-hour plane ride followed by days or even weeks of traveling through a new country. Your child might feel uneasy, you might be uncomfortable and even worse, if you aren't prepared, you might not even make it onboard the airplane.

First off, most countries require foreign visitors under the age of 18 to travel with at least one parent or legal guardian. That sounds simple, right? Unfortunately it might not be that simple unless you carry definitive proof of your relationship to the child. Family photographs or stories of your child's birth won't suffice; you need certain documents based on that country's regulations. The best way to know exactly what to carry is to contact the embassy or a tourism bureau in every country you plan to visit, and find out their requirements and regulations.

Before leaving, make sure you have proper identification for each of you, including driver's license, birth certificates and anything else you might need. Once you've arrived at your destination, make sure to keep copies of these documents on you at all times, even if you're only walking down the street for lunch. There's no way to tell what might happen. And make sure to always keep your child within sight, just as you would at home. Remember that U.S. citizens are now required by law to carry a passport when traveling, and you need to plan ahead since it can take up to four months to obtain a new passport for you or your child. Some countries also require that your passport be valid for at least six months before the date of departure, so you really need to plan in advance. And you will also need to check on the visa requirements for each country as well.

Many U.S. citizens find it helpful to register with the State Department. It will help them reach you in case of an emergency back home, or to reach your family if you have an emergency while traveling. These are the most important things to remember when planning to travel internationally with your child.

By Jennifer Eblin